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Doug Mills/Pool/Getty ImagesBy MEREDITH DELISO, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Since entering office on Jan. 20, President Joe Biden has signed more than three dozen executive actions addressing the coronavirus pandemic, economy, immigration, climate crisis and more.

Here's a look at all of his executive orders, and other notable executive actions, so far:

COVID-19 RESPONSE


Executive Order on Protecting Federal Workforce and Requiring Mask-Wearing: Requires masks, physical distancing and other health measures while on federal property
Issued: Jan. 20
Read the order here

Executive Order on Organizing and Mobilizing the United States Government to Provide a Unified and Effective Response to Combat COVID-19 and to Provide United States Leadership on Global Health and Security: Establishes the position of a COVID-19 response coordinator within the executive office
Issued: Jan. 20
Read the order here

Rejoining the World Health Organization: Biden sends letter to United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres revoking the United States' previous intention to withdraw from WHO amid the pandemic
Issued: Jan. 20
Read the letter here

Executive Order on Promoting COVID-19 Safety in Domestic and International Travel: Requires masks on certain forms of domestic travel, including planes, trains, ferries and intercity buses, and requires those coming to the U.S. from a foreign country to provide proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test before arrival "to the extent feasible"
Issued: Jan. 21
Read the order here

Executive Order on Improving and Expanding Access to Care and Treatments for COVID-19: Accelerates the development of COVID-19 therapies -- in particular ones that can be "easily manufactured, distributed and administered" -- and provides surge assistance to critical care and long-term care facilities
Issued: Jan. 21
Read the order here

Executive Order on Ensuring a Data-Driven Response to COVID-19 and Future High-Consequence Public Health Threats: Enhances data collection for public health threats such as COVID-19 by designating a senior official within several agencies to work on COVID-19 data issues, among other measures
Issued: Jan. 21
Read the order here

Executive Order on a Sustainable Public Health Supply Chain: Directs several agencies to review and assess the inventory of pandemic response supplies, such as personal protective equipment
Issued: Jan. 21
Read the order here

Executive Order on Ensuring an Equitable Pandemic Response and Recovery: Establishes a COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force within the Department of Health and Human Services to provide recommendations on mitigating health inequities caused by the pandemic
Issued: Jan. 21
Read the order here

Executive Order on Establishing the COVID-19 Pandemic Testing Board and Ensuring a Sustainable Public Health Workforce for COVID-19 and Other Biological Threats: Establishes a COVID-19 Pandemic Testing Board to coordinate federal COVID-19 testing efforts
Issued: Jan. 21
Read the order here

Executive Order on Protecting Worker Health and Safety: Reviews the Occupational Safety and Health Act to identify any changes to better protect works from COVID-19
Issued: Jan. 21
Read the order here

Executive Order on Supporting the Reopening and Continuing Operation of Schools and Early Childhood Education Providers: Directs the education secretary to assist states in deciding whether and how to safely reopen for in-person learning, and coordinates the collection of data to inform safely reopening and on the status of in-person learning
Issued: Jan. 21
Read the order here

ECONOMIC RELIEF


Pausing Federal Student Loan Payments: Directs the acting education secretary to pause federal student loan payments and collections and keep the interest rate at 0% (a pause was issued the following day)
Issued: Jan. 20
Read the directive here

Executive Order on Economic Relief Related to the COVID-19 Pandemic: Directs all executive agencies to consider actions to address the economic crisis resulting from the pandemic
Issued: Jan. 22
Read the order here

WORKFORCE

Executive Order on Protecting the Federal Workforce: Expands protections for federal workings, including putting federal agencies on a path to require a $15 minimum wage for contractors
Issued: Jan. 22
Read the order here

Executive Order on Ensuring the Future is Made in All of America by All of America's Workers: Increases the amount of federal spending that goes to American companies and orders an increase in domestic content
Issued: Jan. 25
Read the order here

CLIMATE CRISIS

Executive Order on Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis: Places a temporary moratorium on oil and gas activity in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, revokes the Keystone XL Pipeline permit, among other measures
Issued: Jan. 20
Read the order here

Acceptance of Paris Climate Agreement: The U.S. rejoins the Paris Climate Agreement, a global pact to reduce carbon emissions
Issued: Jan. 20
Read the statement here

Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad: Sets climate change as a key consideration for U.S. national security and foreign policy, establishes a National Climate Task Force, pause new oil and natural gas leases on public lands or in offshore waters "to the extent consistent with applicable law," sets the goal of achieving a carbon pollution-free electricity sector by 2035 and aims to replace the federal government's fleet of autos with zero-emission vehicles, among other measures
Issued: Jan. 27
Read the order here

Executive Order on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology: Establishes the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, which will "advise the president on policy that affects science, technology and innovation"
Issued: Jan. 27
Read the order here

IMMIGRATION

Executive Order on the Revision of Civil Immigration Enforcement Policies and Priorities: Revokes an executive order issued by former President Trump, which made sanctuary jurisdictions that did not comply with immigration enforcement measures ineligible to receive federal funding
Issued: Jan. 20
Read the order here

Executive Order on Ensuring a Lawful and Accurate Enumeration and Apportionment Pursuant to the Decennial Census: Requires that all residents of a state be counted in the census, regardless of immigration status
Issued: Jan. 20
Read the order here

Proclamation on Ending Discriminatory Bans on Entry to The United States: Revokes the so-called Muslim ban, which restricted foreign nationals from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S.
Issued: Jan. 20
Read the proclamation here

Preserving and Fortifying Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA): Directs the Department of Homeland Security to strengthen the regulation, which defers the removal of certain undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children
Issued: Jan. 20
Read the memorandum here

Proclamation on the Termination Of Emergency With Respect To The Southern Border Of The United States And Redirection Of Funds Diverted To Border Wall Construction: Halts construction and funding of the border wall
Issued: Jan. 20
Read the proclamation here

LGBTQ RIGHTS

Executive Order on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation: Enforces sex discrimination protections within the federal government
Issued: Jan. 20
Read the order here

Executive Order on Enabling All Qualified Americans to Serve Their Country in Uniform: Revokes the Pentagon's ban on transgender people serving in the military
Issued: Jan. 25
Read the order here

RACIAL EQUITY AND RACISM

Executive Order On Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government: Includes various directives to promote allocating federal resources and government benefits
Issued: Jan. 20
Read the order here

Executive Order on Reforming Our Incarceration System to Eliminate the Use of Privately Operated Criminal Detention Facilities: Prevents the Justice Department from renewing contracts with private prisons
Issued: Jan. 26
Read the order here

Memorandum Condemning and Combating Racism, Xenophobia, and Intolerance Against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States: Directs Health and Human Services secretary to mitigate "racially discriminatory language in describing the COVID-19 pandemic," among other measures
Issued: Jan. 26
Read the memorandum here

GOVERNMENT


Executive Order on Revocation of Certain Executive Orders Concerning Federal Regulation: Revokes six "harmful policies and directives" issued during the Trump administration to provide federal agencies more flexibility in using regulatory action to address "urgent challenges" such as the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recovery
Issued: Jan. 20
Read the order here

Executive Order on Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Personnel: Requires every executive agency appointee to sign an "ethics pledge," which includes bans on gifts from lobbyists and "golden parachute" payments
Issued: Jan. 20
Read the order here

ABC News' Sarah Kolinovsky, Justin Gomez and Ben Gittleson contributed to this report.


Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



Adamkaz/iStockBy IVAN PEREIRA, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- It's been less than three months since the U.S. saw a record-breaking election turnout, and state leaders across the country are introducing legislation that changes how their localities would operate future elections.

But one watchdog group is already raising flags over some of these bills, particularly ones in key swing states.

The Brennan Center for Justice, a non-partisan, independent organization that analyzes election rules, released a study Tuesday that found 28 states have introduced 106 bills that would restrict voting access by various means, including mandating voter ID and adding more conditions for requesting mail-in ballots.

At the same time, 35 states have introduced over 400 bills to expand voter access, including ones that would increase access to mail-in ballots and increase early voting, the report said.

By comparison, there were 35 similarly restrictive voting bills in 15 states and 188 similarly expansive voting bills introduced in 28 states in February 2020, according to the study.

Eliza Sweren-Becker, voting rights and elections counsel for the Brennan Center, told ABC News state legislators are reacting to the overwhelming turnout during last year's election, where over 155 million Americans cast a ballot. Sweren-Becker warned that any of these bills would have a major effect on turnout.

"I think the big overall takeaway is: Democracy reform as an issue is not going away just because we’re not in a presidential year," she said.

Here are some of the biggest bills and proposals that have been introduced in statehouses.

Restrictive bills and proposals

Swing state Pennsylvania, which has a Republican majority in the state legislature, has 14 election-related bills that the Brennan Center called restrictive, the most of any state so far.

President Joe Biden won the state with just 81,660 votes in November, with a large number of votes coming from mail-in ballots, according to election results.

The state adopted "no-excuse" absentee ballot voting in 2019, which means people do not need a reason to request an absentee mail-in ballot. However, there are three different proposals announced by leaders in the Pennsylvania state legislature that look to remove that provision, according to the Brennan Center report. Another Pennsylvania bill would allow election offices to reject absentee ballots solely based on mismatched signatures.

Sweren-Becker noted that the Pennsylvania state courts ruled last year that absentee ballots couldn't be rejected just on mismatched signatures alone.

"It is concerning that elected officials are trying to take away a tool that their voters used, and frankly preferred to use, in voting," she said.

Bills have also been introduced in Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Washington, Virginia, Nebraska, Wyoming and Nebraska that would require voter ID at poll sites.

Sweren-Becker said such laws have been created because of unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud. Voter ID laws have directly resulted in fewer Americans, particularly minorities and low-income citizens who don't have access to driver's licenses or passports, from registering to vote, she said.

"People are latching onto the lies of voter fraud, which was disproven time and again in the courts last year," Sweren-Becker said. "Legislators are using that lie to restrict access to the ballot box."

The Brennan Center report also highlighted a bill in Arizona that would purge the permanent early voter list if a voter didn't participate in two consecutive election cycles. During last year's election, over 2.4 million Arizona voters voted early, marking a trend across the country that saw a rise in early votes, according to the U.S. Elections Project.

Over 101 million Americans voted early in the 2020 election, according to the U.S. Elections Project.

Expansive bills and proposals

Sweren-Becker also noted that state elected officials, even in states that have previously restricted voter access, are looking at the historic turnout and working on ways to keep civic engagement strong during future election days.

The report noted that in Texas, Missouri and Alabama, three states which require voter ID, bills have been introduced that would establish no-excuse mail-in voting.

"There are legislators that are picking up on things that their voters have been asking," Sweren-Becker said.

Eight states, including New York, Kentucky and New Jersey, have proposed legislation that would allow for localities to set up mail ballot drop boxes, according to the report. Seven states -- Alabama, Connecticut, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, Pennsylvania and South Carolina -- have bills that would introduce early in-person voting, the Brennan Center said.

One major piece of legislation seen across several states affects the disenfranchisement of felons, the Brennan Center report said. Fifteen states, including Texas, Oregon, New York and Mississippi, have introduced policies that would restore voting rights or ease current restrictions for people with past convictions, according to the report.

"That follows not only the trend of addressing voting access, but also the inequities of our criminal justice system," Sweren-Becker said.

The future

It's unknown how many of the election-related bills will be passed or if the governors in those states will ultimately sign off on them, Sweren-Becker said.

She noted that legislators will have to wrestle with the fact that expanded voter access is popular among a majority of voters on both sides of the aisle.

There will likely be more voting rights bills and proposals on the state level as the year continues, according to Sweren-Becker. Voters, she said, still have some power to influence the future of those proposals.

"Voters should reach out to their state elected officials and voice their opinions on voting rights," she said.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



lucky-photographerBy SOO RIN KIM, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Some of President Joe Biden's former staffers and allies, and those close to them outside the White House, are cashing in as corporate and private interests look to exert their influence over the new administration.

A lobbyist brother of Biden's new White House counselor Steve Ricchetti has reported his best quarter of business since 2009 after picking up several major new clients just before and after the November election.

Ricchetti Inc., the lobbying firm Jeff Ricchetti previously shared with this brother Steve, has signed up nearly a dozen new clients, according to lobbying disclosure reports. Steve Ricchetti sold his stake and left the company in 2012 when he was picked as a counselor to then-Vice President Biden.

Jeff Ricchetti, who is now the only registered lobbyist for Ricchetti Inc., did not respond to ABC News' request for comment.

"Jeff has never and will never lobby his brother on behalf of any of his clients, and Steve has had no role in his brother’s business since he sold his stake in the firm in 2012," a source close to Steve Ricchetti told ABC News. "Steve and Jeff keep their professional activities distinctly separate."

The White House declined to comment for this story.

Online retail giant Amazon was among the companies that hired Ricchetti just after Biden's projected victory in the November election, while pharmaceutical companies Eagle Pharmaceuticals, Neurocrine Biosciences and GlaxoSmithKline signed on in the weeks leading up to the election as Biden's lead in the polls appeared to solidify.

In contrast, Ricchetti Inc. only picked up a couple new clients in the four years prior to 2020, according to lobbying records.

By the end of the last quarter of 2020, the firm reported $610,000 in lobbying revenues from 11 clients, including $80,000 from Eagle Pharmaceuticals and $60,000 from Amazon. That's almost four times the amount the firm brought in during the fourth quarter of 2019, and nearly equals the firm's entire lobbying revenue for all of 2019.

Numerous allies and former staffers of an administration revolve around the lobbying world in Washington, and the start of a new administration is a particularly active time for the lobbying world to pick up new clients, said Dan Auble, a senior researcher at Washington-based campaign finance group the Center for Responsive Politics, which first reported on Ricchetti's latest lobbying activities.

"It's not new and it's not particularly surprising that lobbyists and lobbying firms with those connections and the expertise about the way people in the administration think and operate would be valuable to clients," Auble said. "It remains to be seen what kind of conflicts that presents. It's certainly something to be wary of going forward."

As reported in the Wall Street Journal, the recent rise of the Ricchetti brothers within and outside the Biden White House mirrors that of the Podesta brothers in the Obama and Clinton administrations, during which John Podesta served in multiple high-ranking positions in the White House while Tony Podesta built the powerful Washington lobbying firm, The Podesta Group.

Also thriving as Biden takes office is Biden's former director of legislative affairs, Sudafi Henry, who also had a lucrative final quarter of 2020. His firm, called TheGroup, picked up three major new clients just after the November election: Abbott Lab, the American Health Care Association and Lyft, lobbying records show. It's unclear when he left the administration, but he was with Biden's office at least until 2012.

Named a "top-performing lobbying firm" by Bloomberg Government in 2019, Henry's firm brought in a total of $620,000 from various high-powered clients in the final quarter of 2020, up from $370,000 in the fourth quarter of the previous year.

TheGroup's latest clients join a Rolodex of existing big-name corporate clients, including PepsiCo, JPMorgan Chase, FedEx, Facebook, BP America, Dell and 3M.

Henry did not respond to a request for comment from ABC News.

During the Trump administration, close allies of Donald Trump including former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and Trump confidant and fundraiser Brian Ballard similarly ran lucrative lobbying businesses.

Ballard, in fact, has made a quick transition following Biden's victory. Earlier this month, his firm, Ballard Partners, announced that it was adding some big Democratic names to its team, including Courtney Whitney, a top Democratic fundraiser who was a consultant for the pro-Biden super PAC Priorities USA.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



FatCamera/iStockBy SASHA PEZENIK, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Over the last decade, federal officials misappropriated millions of dollars designated for biomedical research, including vaccine research, emergency preparedness for public health threats like Ebola, Zika -- and now, COVID-19 -- according to the findings from an investigation into a whistleblower complaint to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, shared with ABC News.

The Health and Human Services Department's inspector general conducted the investigation, overseen by the Office of Special Counsel. The whistleblower, who chose to remain anonymous, alleged that the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response tapped into those funds earmarked for scientific advancement under the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority in the years leading up to the coronavirus pandemic -- dollars "intended for the development of public health countermeasures," -- and instead used them to pay for "myriad unrelated expenses, including the removal of office furniture, administrative expenses, news subscriptions, legal services, and the salaries of personnel who did not work for BARDA," the inspector general report found.

The practice of using funds from BARDA, part of the federal health department, for non-BARDA purposes was "so common, there was even a name for it within the agency: "Bank of BARDA," OSC's release said.

The report does not specify estimates for total funds misappropriated, but outlines allegations that those dollars had been incorrectly dipped into beginning in at least fiscal year 2010, and continuing through fiscal year 2019, spanning both the Trump and Obama administrations.

The investigation of ASPR's reporting to Congress from fiscal year 2007 to fiscal year 2016 also found that those reports "failed to account" for more than $517 million in administrative expenditures, adding that "ASPR is unable to demonstrate that the[se] BARDA funds were used for their appropriated purposes."

Copies of the report have been sent to Congress, and a letter has been transmitted to President Joe Biden and the office of the White House Counsel regarding the report's findings, according to a source familiar with the investigation.

In his letter to Biden, Kerner notes the report indicates "there is more work to be done," and that it contains evidence that as recently as fiscal year 2019, approximately $25 to $26 million was taken from BARDA's Advanced Research and Development programs and "improperly provided to ASPR."

The inspector general concluded that ASPR had violated the Purpose Statute, a key federal guardrail to ensure funds appropriated by Congress are applied only toward their intended purpose and recipient. A further internal HHS review will now examine whether the agency's use of the funds may have violated an additional law guiding federal funds' use -- the Antideficiency Act. The health department has also hired an outside accounting firm to conduct an audit, Kerner wrote to Biden.

HHS also hired an external accounting firm to perform an audit of the agency’s use of ARD funds from fiscal years 2017 through 2019. This in addition to the internal review, which will cover fiscal years 2015 through 2019. Both should be – according to agency estimates – complete by summer of 2021.

Those findings are expected by the summer of 2021, Kerner said.

"I am deeply concerned about ASPR's apparent misuse of millions of dollars in funding meant for public health emergencies like the one our country is currently facing with the COVID-19 pandemic," Kerner wrote in his letter to Biden.

"Equally concerning is how widespread and well-known this practice appeared to be for nearly a decade. While I have determined that HHS's report contains the information required by statute and that its findings appear reasonable, I urge the agency to expediently follow through on its proposed remedial actions—including the additional audit work and any required reporting to Congress—as outlined in the agency's response to OSC."

ABC News has reached out to HHS for comment.

ABC News' Anne Flaherty contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



Doug Mills-Pool/Getty ImagesBy LIBBY CATHEY, JACK ARNHOLZ and LAUREN KING, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- This is Day 8 of the administration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

Here is how events are unfolding. All times Eastern:

Jan 27, 6:06 pm
FEMA seeking as many as 10,000 service members to support administering COVID-19 vaccines


A draft request for assistance between FEMA and the Department of Defense is under discussion that would seek as many as 10,000 service members to support administering COVID-19 vaccine shots up to 100 sites nationwide, according to a FEMA official.

A defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed discussions are underway, but the final number of personnel is not settled.

-ABC News' Matthew Vann and Luis Martinez

Jan 27, 4:50 pm
Secretary of State Blinken holds first press briefing


Newly confirmed Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a press briefing at the State Department Wednesday during his first full day on the job.

Blinken announced that he will bring back daily press briefings at the State Department, calling a free press a "cornerstone" of democracy. His predecessor, former Secretary Mike Pompeo, had a more standoffish relationship with the media. Blinken promised to be "forthright" with the press and treat the media with respect.

He took questions but said that many of the State Department's policies are under "review."

"This is my first full day on the job as secretary of state and to restate what I said before, it is a deep honor to be in this job, and I'm gratified that president sees fit to entrust me with this responsibility," Blinken said. "And I'm incredibly excited about the work ahead, especially working with the men and women of the State Department to try to serve the American people and represent our country to the world."

Jan 27, 3:51 pm
Biden's pick to lead Veterans Affairs Dept. testifies before Congress


The Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee is holding a confirmation hearing for Biden's Cabinet nominee Denis McDonough to serve as veterans affairs secretary.

"Though only a small percentage of Americans have served in our armed forces, the president has called on every American to embrace our responsibility to support our veterans and their families," McDonough said in his opening statement, noting that he is not a veteran but has witnessed their service, which he praised.

In addition to helping to get veterans through the pandemic, McDonough said he would focus on what he described as the department’s three core responsibilities: providing the best health care, ensuring timely access to benefits and “honoring our veterans with their final resting place.”

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., introduced McDonough to the committee as an "adept manager who understands how to tackle complex challenges throughout our government," adding, "He will listen, then he will get things done for you."

McDonough, 51, who served as former President Barack Obama's chief of staff in his second term, was previously Obama's principal deputy national security adviser, including during the 2011 Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Like Biden's Secretary of State Antony Blinken, McDonough is in the famous Situation Room photo.

Prior to his eight-year White House tenure, McDonough served in senior leadership and policy-making positions in both chambers of Congress.

He's credited with helping Obama bridge divides on Capitol Hill, including gaining support for the Veterans Choice Act, which former President Donald Trump later signed into law.

Jan 27, 2:45 pm
Biden discusses regional security, COVID-19 in call with Japanese prime minister


Biden is continuing his calls with world leaders and spoke with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga Wednesday morning.

The two world leaders spoke about renewing the U.S. commitment to Article 5 of NATO, regional security issues -- particularly with regard to China -- and the need to denuclearize the Korean peninsula, according to a White House readout.

The pair also spoke about working together on COVID-19 as well as a desire to address climate change. Biden has also had calls with leaders of Mexico, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Russia.

-ABC News' Moly Nagle

Jan 27, 2:30 pm
Biden signs executive actions to address 'climate crisis'


Biden has signed a series of actions on climate change, fulfilling campaign promises such as freezing new oil and gas leasing on federal land and kicking off his ambitious agenda to reduce greenhouse gas emissions -- making tackling climate change a priority across the federal government.

In addition to Biden’s domestic policy priorities on climate, one executive order sets climate change as a key consideration for U.S. national security and foreign policy. It also sets up the U.S. to host an international climate summit on Earth Day on April 22.

The order directs the federal government to purchase electric, zero-emissions vehicles for its enormous fleet, double the country's offshore wind energy, establish a Civilian Climate Corps and sets the goal of conserving at least 30% of the country's lands and oceans. It also directs federal agencies to address the health, environmental and climate impacts on disadvantaged communities and to direct 40% of relevant federal investment to those areas.

Biden has tasked former Secretary of State John Kerry, in his position as special presidential envoy for climate, with “enhanced climate ambition” to increase the U.S. commitment and push other countries to reduce carbon dioxide emissions even further in the fight against climate change, another part of the order.

Wednesday's actions follow several climate-related executive orders Biden signed in his first few days in office, including rejoining the Paris Agreement on climate and revoking the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline.

Biden’s aggressive actions come after former President Donald Trump rolled back much of his predecessor’s climate work, a point Biden acknowledged in his remarks.

-ABC News' Stephanie Ebbs and Sarah Kolinovsky

Jan 27, 1:43 pm
John Kerry argues it will cost country 'a lot more' to ignore climate change

Former Secretary of State John Kerry -- the nation's first ever special presidential envoy for climate -- discussed the climate plan and the impact it will have on jobs in a press briefing with reporters Wednesday ahead of Biden signing climate-focused executive actions.

In response to a question from ABC News' Chief White House Correspondent Cecilia Vega, Kerry said that efforts to improve climate will not come at the expense of American workers.

 

"This is an issue where failure is literally not an option," Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry says about climate change. https://t.co/IdxzzBeGnP pic.twitter.com/9hbILXpePn

— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) January 27, 2021

 

"Unfortunately, workers have been fed a false narrative -- no surprise, right? -- for the last few years," Kerry said in a nod to the Trump administration. "They've been fed the notion that, somehow, dealing with climate is coming at their expense. No, it's not. What's happening to them is happening because other market forces are already taking place."

Pressed later on the cost of the Biden administration's plans, Kerry said it costs "a lot more" to dismiss climate change than it will to address it now.

"There are countless economic analyses now that show that it is now cheaper to deal with the crisis of climate than it is to ignore it," he said.

Jan 27, 1:10 pm
Biden's climate team participates in White House press briefing


Former Secretary of State and now the nation's first ever climate envoy, John Kerry, along with Biden's national climate adviser, Gina McCarthy, joined together in the White House press briefing room Wednesday ahead of Biden signing executive actions on climate change.

"This executive order establishes a White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy, and it directs everyone who works for the president to use every tool available at our disposal to solve the climate crisis. Because we're going to take a whole of government approach. We're going to power our economy with clean energy," McCarthy said.

 

"Today's executive order starts by saying it is the policy of this administration that climate considerations shall be an essential element of U.S. foreign policy and national security," White House National Climate Adviser Gina McCarthy says. https://t.co/IdxzzBeGnP pic.twitter.com/qLzGFcgTaK

— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) January 27, 2021

 

The duo discussed the urgency of addressing climate change and the need for global intervention -- in a stark contrast with the priorities of the Trump administration.

"We could go to zero tomorrow, and the problem isn't solved. So that's why today, one week into the job, President Biden will sign this additional executive set of orders to help move us down the road, ensuring that ambitious climate action is global in scope and scale, as well as national -- here at home," Kerry said.

Kerry also detailed the plans to further the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement at another meeting in Glasgow, Scotland, in April.

Jan 27, 12:45 pm
Biden’s top COVID-19 advisers hold 1st joint public briefing


Biden’s top coronavirus advisers -- including Chief Medical Adviser on COVID-19 Dr. Anthony Fauci, new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky and COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients -- have wrapped their first public briefing on the White House’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

In contrast with the Trump administration, the Biden administration has pledged to aim for three virtual, public briefings with health experts each week in an effort to be more transparent in their response. Biden is also branding his COVID-19 response team an "equity" task force, chaired by Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith.

In another change promised by the Biden White House, an American Sign Langauge interpreter was also present for the briefing.

After a bit of a rocky start, with Fauci and other speakers having microphone issues, the briefing proceeded for nearly an hour and focused largely on vaccine distribution.

Jan 27, 12:30 pm
Biden's pick for UN ambassador testifies in front of Congress


Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Biden's nominee for ambassador to the United Nations, testified in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during her nomination hearing Wednesday. During the hearing, Thomas-Greenfield said her three key priories, if confirmed, would be leadership rooted in core values, reforms at the UN, and having a close relationship with lawmakers.

"I've learned that effective diplomacy means more than shaking hands and staging photo ops," Thomas-Greenfield said. "It means developing real robust relationships, it means finding common ground and managing points of differentiation, it means doing genuine old-fashioned, people-to-people diplomacy."

Over her 35-year career, Thomas-Greenfield has been posted Switzerland, Pakistan, Nigeria, Jamaica and elsewhere. Thomas-Greenfield grew up in segregated Baker, Louisiana. If confirmed, she will be only the second Black woman to ever hold the post.

"When we exert our influence in accordance to our values, the United Nations can be an indispensable institution for advancing peace, security and our collective well-being. If instead we walk away from the table and allow others to fill the void the global community suffers, and so do American interest," Thomas-Greenfield said.

Jan 27, 12:10 pm
Blinken participates in ceremonial swearing-in with Harris


New Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his wife, Evan Ryan, participated in a ceremonial swearing-in with Vice President Kamala Harris on Wednesday.

Although daily guidance said the ceremony would take place at the White House, it happened next door, inside the ornate office of the vice president at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. They stood in front of two American flags and two white State Department flags for the ceremony.

Blinken was confirmed by the Senate in a vote of 78-22 on Tuesday and officially sworn in by a senior career ambassador, Carol Perez, who is currently serving as acting under secretary for management.

Blinken has advised Biden on foreign policy for almost two decades. Previously, he served as deputy secretary of state in the Obama administration, and when serving as national security adviser to Biden, he was present in the Situation Room during the Osama bin Laden raid. Blinken was also a top staffer on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when then-senator Biden was its chair.

Jan 27, 11:26 am
Biden's pick for energy secretary testifies before Senate


Jennifer Granholm, Biden's nominee for energy secretary, is testifying in front of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

In her opening statement, Granholm laid out that her main focuses as energy secretary would be on nuclear energy, supporting scientific resources at the Department of Energy's labs and facilities, and using that research to create jobs. Granholm also touted her experience as the former governor of Michigan and her efforts to get the state's s auto industry to pivot to manufacturing electric vehicles during recession.

"In talking with you -- Democrats and Republicans -- I know that you all share that belief," Granholm said, referring to the opportunity to create American jobs through efforts toward clean energy. "And if confirmed, I look forward to working with you to bring good paying jobs to every state, and to make sure that no worker gets left behind."

Jan 27, 10:39 am
Blinken addresses State Dept. employees


Secretary of State Antony Blinken, reporting for work at the State Department, told the agency's 70,000 employees around the world, "I will have your back."

"It’s a new day for America. It's a new day for the world," Blinken said in remarks shortly after entering the building, calling his return "like a homecoming."

Blinken recalled how his career began at the State Department 28 years ago as a special assistant. He last served in the department four years ago as its deputy secretary in the Obama administration and acknowledged the changes the agency and the world have undergone since.

"To date, the pandemic has claimed the lives of five State Department Americans and 42 locally employed staff around the world," Blinken said. "And outside our doors, our government buildings are surrounded by new barricades. We’ve never been in a moment quite like this before."

He went on to pledge to be an inclusive, transparent and morale-building boss, arguing, "We at State have a role to play in all of this."

Blinken also vowed to invest in building a diverse and inclusive agency that is "truly representative of the American people."

He said, "the world is watching us intently right now" to see "if we can heal our nation," but, in a nod to the appeal of the Trump administration's more isolationist approach, Blinken noted that the department must work first for the American people, saying the public wants to see "that our foreign policy is about them and their lives."

"We will do right by them," he said. "Now let’s get to work."

Jan 27, 9:42 am
Two weeks from Trump's impeachment trial, Biden moves on Cabinet and climate

With the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump slated to formally begin in two weeks, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., forced a procedural vote on the constitutionality of trying a former president on Tuesday and was met with the support of 45 Republicans -- just three weeks after the Capitol, including the Senate chamber, was invaded. Though anything could happen at trial, the vote signals Democrats will not have the numbers to convict Trump and bar him from holding future federal office.


The idea behind delaying Trump's trial to Feb. 9, an agreement reached by party leaders, was reached so that the Senate could work on Biden's Cabinet confirmations and COVID-19 relief while the House impeachment managers and Trump's defense team prepare.

On the Cabinet front, Biden meets his one-week anniversary in office with four Cabinet officials confirmed -- lagging behind other administrations in recent history. On Wednesday, confirmation hearings will be held for Jennifer Granholm for the energy secretary, Linda Thomas-Greenfield at U.N. ambassador, and Denis McDonough to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The president on Wednesday will turn his attention to the climate crisis with a suite of new executive actions -- making tackling climate change a priority across the federal government.

Biden, who has already revoked a permit for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline project and moved to rejoin the Paris Agreement on climate, is scheduled to deliver afternoon remarks and sign executive actions at 1:30 p.m., fulfilling campaign promises such as freezing new oil and gas leasing on federal land and kicking off his ambitious agenda to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki will also hold a press briefing with the nation's first ever climate envoy, former Secretary of State John Kerry, and Biden's national climate advisor, Gina McCarthy, around 12:15 p.m.

Kicking off what's expected to happen three times a week moving forward, White House COVID-19 response team and other public health officials will hold a virtual, public briefing on the pandemic at 11 a.m. with participants including Biden's chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci, COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

Jan 27, 6:51 am
Biden turns to climate crisis with new executive actions

On his one-week anniversary as president, Biden will turn his attention to the climate crisis with a suite of new executive actions Wednesday.

The president, who has already revoked a permit for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline project, will deliver remarks and sign executive actions on tackling climate change, creating jobs and restoring scientific integrity from the White House's State Dining Room on Tuesday afternoon.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki will also hold a press briefing with Biden's climate envoy, former Secretary of State John Kerry, and Biden's national climate advisor, Gina McCarthy.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty ImagesBy MEG CUNNINGHAM, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y., a member of the Problem Solvers Caucus, said that he would support sanctions against members of the House who repeat violent rhetoric, like Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who expressed support online for executing prominent congressional Democrats.

"I'll support sanctions by the leadership that they feel appropriate in this matter," Reed said on ABC News' "Powerhouse Politics" podcast. "And I hope they do take measures that will send the message that this is unacceptable. And I would hope my colleagues on the left will do the same thing -- as those that hold posts of leadership on the left -- that engaged in this extreme rhetoric."

Reed told ABC News Political Director Rick Klein and Chief Washington Correspondent Jonathan Karl that while members are elected to represent their constituents, they also have to represent the Republican Party as a whole.

"I don't know her," Reed said of Greene. "But I've expressed concern about the rhetoric and the information that I'm seeing with her, and I would hope some folks would maybe talk with her. And maybe leadership, as my understanding, is going to be talking to her, because one of the things that is concerning when you have folks that come to D.C. -- and I appreciate the passion, ... what I try to do is just recognize that when you represent folks and when you're a representative, what you do is also representative of us as Republicans -- as a whole. What you do in regards to how you do it, we all have to answer for."

Reed said he believes that Democrats have a similar problem, pointing to members of the progressive "Squad."

Karl pushed back on that statement, using Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., as an example.

"But you haven't seen AOC suggesting executing fellow members of Congress," Karl said. "Executing members of Congress? I haven't seen that."

Reed responded, "I've seen some extreme rhetoric. I've seen some extreme rhetoric posted on the internet."

"And I'm not going to get into this battle with you as to what behavior is acceptable and what is not acceptable by members. And I will say any rhetoric that is of that extreme nature, like what you just articulated from my colleague on the Republican side is offensive. It's appalling. It cannot be accepted. And where I see it on both sides of the aisle. That's unacceptable," he continued. "We, as members, owe it to the American people to recognize that we have to do better than that. And I condemn it from the loudest of mountaintops that that is not acceptable. And I encourage my members on both sides of the aisle, in their own House and across the aisle, you need to condemn it together and stand together to condemn it and say it's unacceptable."

Reed, who has been a member of Congress since the Obama administration, told Klein and Karl that compromise is as important as ever, but he isn't surprised at the flurry of executive orders from President Joe Biden at the beginning of his administration.

"It's not helpful, to be honest with you," Reed said of the executive orders. "But having been through Obama's administration, Trump's administration and now Biden's administration, I recognize that the elections have consequences and executive orders are part of those consequences."

"And as I've told the administrations before, and I told my colleagues, what can be done by executive order can be undone by executive order. That's why that is a terrible way to govern the nation -- the zig-zag approach that tears the country apart," he added. "Do it on the old fashioned engagement. Compromise is not a dirty word and try to get it done."

Reed is one of 58 members of the congressional Problem Solvers Caucus, which is working on negotiations surrounding Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.

"We've had multiple meetings with the White House, and I will tell you, I take their commitment that they said, 'We'll meet with you. We'll talk with you. We'll listen to you.' And so let's see how this unfolds over the next few weeks," he said. "But I think they're looking at it from a multi-prong approach to see what they have to do in order to get something done."

Reed said members are ready to work in "good faith" with the White House on pushing forward with negotiations, but some of the money from the $900 billion package hasn't made it out of "the coffers of Washington, D.C., yet."

"So we've got to see where we stand," Reed added. "I think there's broad recognition that it's going to take six weeks -- eight weeks at a minimum, to get a reconciliation bill through the House and Senate because it's so divided on a narrow margin, equally divided in the Senate. But in the meantime, what I encourage the Biden administration to consider is what can we agree upon immediately?"

Klein asked Reed to elaborate on what outreach and collaboration looks like from the Biden White House in comparison to former President Donald Trump's.

Reed said Biden's history as a member of Congress leads him to place an emphasis on building relationships.

"I think President Biden was always a man of the Senate ... enjoys those relationships," Reed said. "And so I'm glad to see us continuing on the Trump administration's practice of reaching out and developing relationships to bring these members to the White House."

Reed, who voted against impeaching Trump, said he supported all members voting with their conscience, including No. 3 House Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who is now facing censure efforts from some members of her conference.

"When it came to impeachment, as I told my colleagues, when I stood in front of them on that conference, this is going to be a vote of conscience, just as the vote on the Electoral College is. But if you're using this moment for politics -- Machiavellian politics -- I condemn them."

"This is a critical moment in our history that we have to look beyond politics and look at what's good for the country," Reed added. "And I think our Republican Party is strong enough -- I know it is -- to have the difference of opinions, where members vote their conscience. And we can get through it, and we will become united and we'll become stronger when we get through this. It's going to be ugly. It's going to be a fight that's going to occur."

Reed said it's time for his colleagues to put political arguments behind them in order to heal divisions across the nation.

"And if we're engaging in politics, let's put it behind us. ... Let's lead with a Republican Party that's united. Listen to the Trump voters, listen to their anger, listen to their frustration and let us get through this as quick as we possibly can. But it's going to take time and we're going to have to not only heal the wounds of the party, but let's lead the country in healing the wounds of a broken country," he said.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



Darwel/iStockBy JULIA JACOBO, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden was clear on the campaign trail that he would roll back several actions taken by the Trump administration, many of them having to do with climate and the environment.

Throughout his presidency, Trump reversed several American commitments to mitigating climate change that were made during the Obama administration -- most notably pulling out of the Paris Agreement, removing clean water protections and seeking to fast-track environmental reviews of dozens of major energy and infrastructure projects, such as drilling, fuel pipelines and wind farms.

After Biden was sworn in as the 46th president on Jan. 20, he was ready with pen in hand to begin signing executive actions -- 33 in less than a week, with nearly two dozen of them aimed specifically at undoing what was on Trump's agenda.

Biden appointed former Secretary of State John Kerry as climate envoy, a role that holds authority over energy and climate policy within the executive branch as well as former EPA administrator Gina McCarthy as White House climate adviser.

Here are the environmental actions Biden has taken so far:

President Joe Biden was clear on the campaign trail that he would roll back several actions taken by the Trump administration, many of them having to do with climate and the environment.

Throughout his presidency, Trump reversed several American commitments to mitigating climate change that were made during the Obama administration -- most notably pulling out of the Paris Agreement, removing clean water protections and seeking to fast-track environmental reviews of dozens of major energy and infrastructure projects, such as drilling, fuel pipelines and wind farms.

After Biden was sworn in as the 46th president on Jan. 20, he was ready with pen in hand to begin signing executive actions -- 33 in less than a week, with nearly two dozen of them aimed specifically at undoing what was on Trump's agenda.

Biden appointed former Secretary of State John Kerry as climate envoy, a role that holds authority over energy and climate policy within the executive branch as well as former EPA administrator Gina McCarthy as White House climate adviser.

Biden signs sweeping executive orders on climate change, the environment


On what the White House described as "Climate Day," Biden signed a sweeping executive orders on policies to protect the environmental and mitigate rising temperatures.

"In my view, we've already waited too long to deal with this climate crisis. We can't wait any longer," Biden during a briefing on Jan. 27. "We see it with our own eyes. We feel it. We know it in our bones. And it's time to act."

The order aims to tackle the climate crisis both domestically and internationally as well as create jobs and a clean energy future, build modern and sustainable infrastructure and restore "scientific integrity and evidence-based policymaking across the federal government," according to the White House.

The executive orders will encompass a wide range of environmental concerns, such as climate change, clean energy and protection of land and ocean.

Biden emphasized that "climate day" also means "jobs day" as well, saying that innovation, products and labor created during the climate fight will also create jobs.

The climate plans will create 1.5 million new energy-efficient homes, 1 million new jobs in the automobile industry, 500,000 new electric vehicle charging stations and 250,000 jobs for things like plug millions of abandoned oil and gas wells, Biden said.

Biden added that Trump vowed to save the jobs of "forgotten" men and woman during his presidency but eventually abandoned them for the big oil industry.

"And when the previous administration reversed the Obama-Biden vehicle standard and picked big oil companies over American workers, the Biden-Harris administration will not only bring those standards back, we’ll set new ambitious ones that our workers are ready to meet," Biden said.

The new president acknowledged the large scale of the executive order, but emphasized that it can be done.

"Our plans are ambitious, but we are America. We're bold," Biden said of the new climate agenda.

The U.S. reentered the Paris Agreement


Biden kept his promise to rejoin the Paris Agreement -- the accord among nearly every country in the world to prevent the earth's temperatures from rising -- the day he entered office.

Trump announced his intention to withdraw from the agreement in 2017, claiming it could be economically detrimental and cost 2.5 million Americans their jobs by 2025. The U.S. officially left the accord on Nov. 4, the day after Election Day.

Re-entering the agreement was among one of the first actions Biden signed upon arriving to the Oval Office.

Environmental policy experts told ABC News last year that while the U.S. lost its standing as a climate leader under Trump, it would take more than simply reentering the global stage for it to regain that status -- that it would have to keep ambitious commitments for reducing its greenhouse gas outputs.

Permits for the Keystone Pipeline were revoked


Construction on the TransCanada Corporation Keystone XL oil pipeline has halted after the permits were revoked by Biden during his first day in office.

The 1,700-mile project, slated to carry about 800,000 barrels of oil per day from Alberta to the Gulf Coast in Texas, was first proposed under President George W. Bush but was later stopped by the Obama administration, which cited potential pollution concerns.

One of Trump's first big moves as president was overturning Obama's decision and signing an executive order to approve the development, stating it would benefit the economy.

"The Keystone XL pipeline disserves the U.S. national interest," the Biden executive order states. "The United States and the world face a climate crisis. That crisis must be met with action on a scale and at a speed commensurate with the need to avoid setting the world on a dangerous, potentially catastrophic, climate trajectory."

The halt will eliminate more than 1,000 jobs in the upcoming weeks, said Keystone XL President Richard Prior.

On Monday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed "disappointment" over rescinding the permit during a call with Biden, according to the White House. Trudeau had previously announced his support of the project in 2018.

ABC News' Ben Gittleson, Sarah Kolinovsky and Christine Theodorou contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



mixetto/iStockBy SOPHIE TATUM, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- As officials nationwide grapple with how to reopen schools, the White House said on Wednesday it plans to develop school safety standards as part of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a briefing that there are "a number of steps that will need to be taken" to meet President Joe Biden's goal of reopening the majority of K-8 schools within 100 days.

When specifically asked if the administration plans to develop metrics or standards for what a safe reopening of schools will look like, Psaki responded, "We do."

To date, there hasn't been a clear federal standard for when it's safe to reopen a school. While there has been guidance on masks and other measures to improve safety, schools and parents have argued over when transmission levels are too high or if teachers should be vaccinated first.

The Biden administration announced last week as part of its plan to fight the pandemic that it would release a handbook from the Education Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on school reopenings "in the coming weeks."

The strategy also mentioned Biden's call for Congress to "provide at least $130 billion in dedicated funding to schools," as well as "$350 billion in flexible state and local relief funds that will help districts avoid lay-offs and close budget gaps, and additional resources so that schools can safely reopen, including funds to implement screening testing."

However, Psaki would not engage on what would happen if Congress did not approve the funding, adding that she wouldn't "get into a hypothetical."

"Nobody wants to be having a conversation in May or June about why schools are not reopened," Psaki said.

Psaki reiterated that Biden's plan to safely reopen schools will "require testing materials, support for contact tracing, vaccinations for teachers and ensuring they're equitably provided."

On Monday, Biden responded to questions from reporters and he specifically addressed school reopenings, saying, "we should make classrooms safe and secure" for students and school staff.

"We need new ventilation systems in those schools. We need testing for people coming in and out of the classes. We need testing for teachers, as well as students, and we need the capacity, the capacity to know that, in fact, the circumstance in the school is safe and secure for everyone," Biden said.

The push to get students back into physical classrooms is not unique to this administration, however, the Trump administration did not issue a federal standard determining how and when a school should hold in-person classes, and instead left state and local officials to make the decisions on their own.

The CDC under the Trump administration issued guidance for K-12 schools on operating during COVID-19, but the administration continuously pressed for schools to be open. Former Vice President Mike Pence in July 2020 said, "We don't want federal guidance to be a substitute for state and local laws and rules and guidance."

"We are here to assist with the shared objective that I think is shared by every parent in America, which is what we want to get our kids back [in schools]," he said at the time.

On Tuesday, the CDC released a report that indicated when schools put strategies in place, like mask requirements and student cohorts, there is the potential to open safely.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert and Biden's chief medical adviser, told FOX News on Wednesday that in-person learning can be successful if communities follow CDC guidelines.

"What the science tells us is the following -- that children in school right now, it appears that if you follow the safety guidelines of the CDC, that they are less likely to be getting infected than the community rate of infection," Fauci told FOX News Channel's "America Reports with John Roberts and Sandra Smith."

Following CDC guidelines though, "may require additional resources to the local school districts," he added.

ABC News' Anne Flaherty, Molly Nagle, Ben Gittleson and Karen Travers contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty ImagesBy STEPHANIE EBBS and SARAH KOLINOVSKY, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden took a series of actions on climate change on his seventh full day in office, fulfilling campaign promises such as freezing new oil and gas leasing on federal land and kicking off his ambitious agenda to reduce greenhouse gas emissions -- making tackling climate change a priority across the federal government.

Biden’s actions Wednesday will follow up on several climate-related executive orders he signed in his first few days in office, including rejoining the Paris Agreement on climate, and revoking the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline.

Biden and his top climate advisers, former Secretary of State John Kerry and former EPA administrator Gina McCarthy, said the steps to tackle climate change will also be good for the economy and create jobs for former energy industry workers struggling with a downturn in industries like coal or oil production.

“Today is climate day in the White House, which means today is jobs day at the White House. We're talking about American innovation. American products, American labor," Biden said in remarks at the White House.

“In my view, we've already waited too long to deal with this climate crisis. We can't wait any longer,” Biden said. “We see it with our own eyes. We feel it. We know it in our bones. And it's time to act.”

In addition to Biden’s domestic policy priorities on climate, the order would set climate change as a key consideration for U.S. national security and foreign policy.

Biden also announced the U.S. will host an international climate summit on Earth Day this year, April 22, and task Kerry with “enhanced climate ambition” to increase the U.S. commitment and push other countries to reduce carbon dioxide emissions even more in the fight against climate change. Kerry, in his position as special presidential envoy for climate, will sit on the National Security Council.

Wednesday’s executive order will start the process for the U.S. to determine its new, more ambitious goal for how much to reduce carbon emissions alongside Biden’s goal for a net-zero carbon economy by 2050 -- a goal meant to be even loftier than those laid out in the Paris Agreement. McCarthy said they plan to announce the goal before the climate summit in April.

A key component of Biden’s climate agenda has been to create clean energy jobs, with particular focus on manufacturing electric, zero-emissions vehicles. One of Wednesday’s orders would direct the federal government to purchase these types of vehicles for the government’s enormous fleet, and requires they be made in America.

McCarthy, Biden's national climate adviser, said the steps Biden announced on climate change Wednesday are also the first steps to economic recovery from the COVID crisis. She said the benefits of investing in clean energy far outweigh the $2 trillion price tag for Biden's plans.

“Now, in terms of the job issue, we're explicitly doing this because our economy is right now stagnant. We have people -- millions of people out of work, out of jobs, millions of people that are afraid they can't feed their families. If you're faced with that, what do you do? You boost the economy and you grow jobs,” she said.

“But why, at the same time, aren't we thinking about the weaknesses of our current economy in terms of the number of environmental injustice communities that have been left behind?”

Biden executive order formally commits the government to environmental justice and addressing the disproportionate impact of pollution on Black and Hispanic communities, including the health impacts that make them more vulnerable to COVID-19 - a topic he and Vice President Kamala Harris both emphasized during the campaign.

The executive order directs federal agencies to address the health, environmental, and climate impacts on disadvantaged communities and direct 40% of relevant federal investment to those areas.

When asked about the message to oil and gas industry workers concerned about the impact to their industry, Kerry said the administration is not trying to put anybody on notice but that the market has already been shifting toward cleaner forms of energy.

“I think that, unfortunately, workers have been fed a false narrative -- no surprise, right? -- for the last few years. They've been fed the notion that, somehow, dealing with climate is coming at their expense. No, it's not. What's happening to them is happening because other market forces are already taking place,” Kerry said.

Biden did extend an olive branch to those in the coal, oil and gas industries -- and a veiled outreach to potential Trump supporters alienated by these policies.

“We're never going to forget the men and women who dug the coal and built the nation. We're going to do right by them, make sure they have opportunities to keep building the nation in their own communities and getting paid well for it,” Biden said.

Republicans and the oil and gas industry criticized Biden's move on Wednesday, saying they agree tackling climate change should be a priority but that the administration shouldn't seek to exclude forms of energy like oil or natural gas. Representatives of the oil and gas industry said halting new permits and an Interior department decision to pause permits being issued from regional land management offices would hurt their industry and, ultimately, could force the country to rely on oil and natural gas from foreign countries.

"We understand society has concerns about the climate, but our energy choices do not have to be either/or. but rather an all of the above," Todd Staples, president of the Texas Oil and Gas Association, said on a call with reporters.

Biden emphasized that he does not plan to ban the production of natural gas, though he would support stronger regulation on the process.

“Now, let me be clear, and I know this always comes up: we're not going to ban fracking. We'll protect jobs and grow jobs, including through stronger standards like controls from methane leaks, and union workers willing to install the changes,” Biden said.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



Mark Makela/Getty ImagesBy CONOR FINNEGAN, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Linda Thomas-Greenfield, President Joe Biden's nominee to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, faces her Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday, vowing to bring back "genuine, old-fashioned, people-to-people diplomacy," according to her prepared remarks obtained by ABC News.

Thomas-Greenfield, a career ambassador who retired from the Foreign Service in 2017 as the top U.S. diplomat for Africa and former U.S. envoy to Liberia, will also promise a tougher line on China, according to her prepared testimony, as the Biden administration faces pressure from Republicans to take a hard line against Beijing and its growing global ambition.

"We know China is working across the U.N. system to drive an authoritarian agenda that stands in opposition to the founding values of the institution -- American values. Their success depends on our continued withdrawal. That will not happen on my watch," her remarks read.

If confirmed, Thomas-Greenfield, known affectionately by colleagues as "LTG," would be the second Black woman to serve as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. and a part of Biden's Cabinet. Biden again elevated the role to Cabinet-level after Trump removed it during his second envoy Kelly Craft's tenure, as it was under both Presidents Bush.

But she will face a grilling first by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where Republican senators are expected to raise China, Iran, the U.N. system and other hot-button issues.

According to the excerpts of her prepared remarks, she will advocate for raising U.S. engagement with the U.N., which includes global agencies like the World Health Organization from which former President Donald Trump moved to withdraw the U.S. Instead, LTG will say that only "when America shows up -- when we are consistent and persistent -- when we exert our influence in accordance with our values -- the United Nations can be an indispensable institution for advancing peace, security, and our collective well-being."

She will call for reforming the U.N., however, which has long faced criticism from Republicans for being bloated and ineffective or used as a cudgel for foreign affairs budget cuts.

"We must have the courage to insist on reforms that make the U.N. efficient and effective, and the persistence to see reforms through," her remarks say.

As a career ambassador, Thomas-Greenfield has on-the-ground experience of the U.N. at work, especially its peacekeeping operations across sub-Saharan Africa and its efforts at mediation.

She also knows China's ambitions on the continent, using its Belt and Road initiative to make in-roads with African leaders and gain control of natural resources. While she has criticized Beijing's so-called "debt trap diplomacy," where it offers infrastructure loans to saddle recipients with debt and seize their assets, she is perceived by some Republicans as too soft on China.

The oldest of eight children, she was raised in Baker, Louisiana -- a segregated town terrorized by the Ku Klux Klan -- by her father, an illiterate laborer, and mother, who pushed her to complete her education. The first in her family to graduate high school, she studied political science and pursued a career in academia at Louisiana State University and then the University of Wisconsin for her masters and PhD.

Fieldwork for her PhD brought her to Liberia, where she met her future husband and was inspired to join the Foreign Service -- a 35-year career that culminates in her returning as U.S. ambassador to the once civil war-torn country that elected the first female president in Africa.

Over that career, she emphasized what she calls "gumbo diplomacy," a brand of personal interactions that can win hearts and change minds in service to U.S. diplomacy.

"I’ve learned that effective diplomacy means more than shaking hands and staging photo ops. It means developing real, robust relationships. It means finding common ground and managing points of differentiation. It means doing genuine, old-fashioned, people-to-people diplomacy," she will say Wednesday.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



Kevin Dietsch/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesBy LIBBY CATHEY, JACK ARNHOLZ and LAUREN KING, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- This is the seventh day of the administration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

Here is how events are unfolding. All times Eastern:

Jan 26, 8:56 pm
Sen. Leahy, set to preside over impeachment trial, taken to hospital, later released

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., has been released from the hospital Tuesday night after being taken "out of an abundance of caution" earlier in the day. The 80-year-old was taken to a local hospital after he told staffers at the Capitol he was feeling sick, a spokesperson said Tuesday evening.

Leahy is currently the most senior Senate Democrat -- the "president pro tempore" -- and as such is presiding over Donald Trump's impeachment trial.

"The Capitol Physician suggested that Senator Leahy go to George Washington University Hospital this evening for observation, out of an abundance of caution," David Carle, spokesman for Leahy, said in a statement. "After getting test results back, and after a thorough examination, Senator Leahy now is home. He looks forward to getting back to work."

There was no mention of his symptoms, or whether he was tested for COVID-19.

Leahy has served in the Senate since 1975.

-ABC News' Trish Turner and Allie Pecorin

Jan 26, 5:56 pm
Blinken sworn in as secretary of state


Antony Blinken has been officially sworn in as secretary of state by a senior career ambassador, Carol Perez, who is currently serving as acting Under Secretary for Management.

He also has launched his official Twitter account -- @SecBlinken -- and tweeted some photos from the ceremony, which was closed to journalists.

 

"From this week forward, God willing, we'll ensure that states, tribes and territories will now always have a reliable three-week forecast in what supply they're going to get," says Pres. Biden as he announces his administration's new COVID distribution plan. pic.twitter.com/7S5qPCUfMd

— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) January 26, 2021

 

-ABC News' Conor Finnegan

Jan 26, 5:15 pm
Biden announces plan to increase COVID-19 vaccine supply


Biden, in afternoon remarks from the White House, announced that his administration has secured commitments from coronavirus vaccine makers to buy another 200 million doses to arrive this summer, raising the total to 600 million and ensuring the U.S. will eventually have two shots of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for nearly every American.

Biden also told the nation to expect a modest uptick in production in the near term -- from 8.6 million doses a week to a minimum of 10 million a week -- for the next three weeks.

"This is going to allow millions of more Americans to get vaccinated sooner than previously anticipated. We've got a long way to go, though," Biden said.

The announcement does not resolve the major shortages the nation is experiencing now, and does not suggest the Biden administration has found a novel way to ramp up production quickly.

One Biden administration official, who briefed reporters earlier on condition of anonymity, did not provide a firm timetable on the 200 million extra doses, pointing to the summer, but hailed the move as a guarantee that every American who wants a shot can get one.

Biden said it was enough to vaccinate 300 million Americans "by end of the summer, beginning of the fall."

-ABC News' Anne Flaherty

Jan 26, 5:15 pm
Biden announces plan to increase COVID-19 vaccine supply


Biden, in afternoon remarks from the White House, announced that his administration has secured commitments from coronavirus vaccine makers to buy another 200 million doses to arrive this summer, raising the total to 600 million and ensuring the U.S. will eventually have two shots of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for nearly every American.

Biden also told the nation to expect a modest uptick in production in the near term -- from 8.6 million doses a week to a minimum of 10 million a week -- for the next three weeks.

"This is going to allow millions of more Americans to get vaccinated sooner than previously anticipated. We've got a long way to go, though," Biden said.

 

"From this week forward, God willing, we'll ensure that states, tribes and territories will now always have a reliable three-week forecast in what supply they're going to get," says Pres. Biden as he announces his administration's new COVID distribution plan. pic.twitter.com/7S5qPCUfMd

— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) January 26, 2021

 

The announcement does not resolve the major shortages the nation is experiencing now, and does not suggest the Biden administration has found a novel way to ramp up production quickly.

One Biden administration official, who briefed reporters earlier on condition of anonymity, did not provide a firm timetable on the 200 million extra doses, pointing to the summer, but hailed the move as a guarantee that every American who wants a shot can get one.

Biden said it was enough to vaccinate 300 million Americans "by end of the summer, beginning of the fall."

-ABC News' Anne Flaherty

Jan 26, 4:33 pm
Biden's deportation pause temporarily blocked by federal court


The state of Texas has won a nationwide temporary restraining order against one of Biden's first executive actions as president -- a 100-day pause of immigrant deportations.

A federal district court judge says status quo enforcement operations can continue for at least the next 14 days while both sides present their case, after which an extended injunction against the policy could be issued or the restraining order lifted.  

Biden's DHS released a "Day One" memorandum on Jan. 20 establishing a moratorium on enforcement actions against most immigrants.

The Texas lawsuit signals the beginning of an expected wave of court challenges by Republicans targeting Biden policies after years of watching Democrats use the courts to hobble Trump's moves.

-ABC News Senior Washington Reporter Devin Dwyer

Jan 26, 4:05 pm
Sen. Rand Paul 'excited' 45 Republicans sided with effort to dismiss impeachment trial


After 45 Republicans sided with his effort to dimisss the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump for being unconstitutional, Republican Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul expressed excitement about the vote count for his failed effort.

"We're excited about it. It's one of the few times in Washington where loss is actually a victory," Paul said to reporters on Capitol Hill. "And 45 votes means that the impeachment trial is dead on arrival."

If the final vote on conviction falls at 55-45, the Senate would be 12 votes short of what is necessary to convict Trump. In order to convict Trump by the necessary two-thirds majority, at least 17 Republican senators would need to join all 50 Democrats.

Even with Tuesday's vote, there is no guarantee that the trial proceedings will not sway the votes of some senators.

Shortly after the vote, the Senate adjourned the trial until Feb. 9.

-ABC News' Allison Pecorin

Jan 26, 3:36 pm
Senate kills GOP senator's effort to dismiss impeachment trial as unconstitutional

Five Republicans joined with Democrats to kill Republican Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul's effort to dismiss the upcoming impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump as unconstitutional.

Paul's effort failed by a vote of 55-45. Sens. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, Ben Sasse, R-Neb., Pat Toomey, R-Pa., Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, voted with Democrats.

While Paul's effort failed, many members of the Republican conference voted with Paul -- an indicator that the constitutional question for some Republicans will be an intense focus during the trial. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was one of those to vote in favor of Paul's motion.

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, in a speech just before the vote, said the argument that an official couldn't be tried after leaving office makes "no sense whatsoever."

"The history and precedent is clear the Senate has the power to try formal officials and the reasons for that are basic common sense," Schumer said. "It makes no sense whatsoever that president or any other official could commit a heinous crime against our country and then could evade Congress's impeachment power."

Paul's motion comes too early, Schumer said, arguing that debate on the constitutionality question should happen during the trial.

-ABC News' Allison Pecorin

Jan 26, 3:26 pm
Senators vote on constitutionality of Trump's 2nd impeachment trial


Republican Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has offered a point of order in the Senate on the question of whether holding an impeachment trial for former President Donald Trump after he has left office is constitutional.

"As of noon last Wednesday, Donald Trump holds of the positions listed in the Constitution. He is a private citizen. The presiding officer is not the chief justice, nor does he claim to be," Paul said. "Therefore I make a point of order that this proceeding which would try a private citizen -- and not a president, a vice president, or civil officer -- violates the Constitution and is not in order."

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called Paul's theory "flat out wrong by every frame of analysis" and moved to table the motion.

Senators proceeded to vote on whether to table Paul's motion -- a procedural objection on the constitutionality of the trial, not on the merits of the case. However, the vote forces Republicans to go on the record regarding how they might vote in Trump's trial.

A “no” vote for senators means voting with Paul to dismiss the trial. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell sided with Paul on questioning the trail's constitutionality.

Rand, a former doctor, was the only Senator who did not wear a mask as he signed the oath as a juror.

Jan 26, 3:01 pm
Biden signs four executive actions on racial equity

Biden has signed four executive actions to address racial equity -- dealing with private prisons, discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, tribal relations and fair housing.

In remarks at the White House, the president said systemic racism “has plagued our nation for far, far too long."

He signed an order directing the attorney general to not renew contracts the Department of Justice has with privately operated criminal detention facilities, a memorandum to address a rise in discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, a memorandum directing the Department of Housing and Urban Development to reinstate an Obama-era anti-housing discrimination rule that Trump had rolled back and an order that "reinvigorates the commitment of all federal agencies to engage in regular, robust, and meaningful consultation with Tribal governments."

 

WATCH: Pres. Biden signs multiple executive orders addressing discriminatory housing polices, xenophobia against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and more.

"I think the country's ready, and I know this administration's ready." https://t.co/rzH33fikYA pic.twitter.com/rXJci7Gg7Z

— ABC News (@ABC) January 26, 2021

 

Beyond what he was signing, Biden said "we need to restore and expand the Voting Rights Act, named after our dear friend John Lewis, and continue to fight back against laws that many states are engaged in to suppress the right to vote, while expanding access to the ballot box for all eligible voters."

The president also called it “nothing short of stunning” when he discussed the disproportionate impact COVID-19 has had on minority communities.

Biden cited the impact George Floyd's death had on the nation as he rolled out Tuesday's actions, recalling meeting Floyd's 6-year-old daughter, Giana, who he said told him that "Daddy changed the world."

"Those eight minutes and 46 seconds that took George Floyd’s life opened the eyes of millions of Americans and millions of people all over the world," Biden said. "It was the knee-on-the-neck of justice, and it wouldn’t be forgotten."

Biden wrapped his remarks by reiterating a campaign theme, that the “soul of the nation” can’t recover if systemic racism continues.

"We can't eliminate everything, but it's corrosive, it's destructive and it's costly. It costs every American, not just who felt the sting of racial injustice," he said.

-ABC News' Sarah Kolinovsky and Ben Gittleson

Jan 26, 2:45 pm
Senators sworn in for Trump's 2nd impeachment trial

In the Senate chamber, a rarely used motion that calls all senators to their seats in the chamber -- "a live quorum call" -- has taken place to ensure they all could stand together at once, raise their hands and take their oaths as jurors in former President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial.

Former President Pro Tempore Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has sworn in his successor, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who will preside over the first-ever impeachment trial of a former president. Instead of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, Leahy swore in the senators as a group.

The oath, per Senate impeachment rules, reads, "I solemnly swear (or affirm, as the case may be,) that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of , now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws: so help me God."

Senators are walking up to the front of the chamber to sign the oath.

In addition to being jurors, the lawmakers were also witnesses of the "insurrection" Trump is charged with inciting at the Capitol on Jan 6.

-ABC News' Allison Pecorin

Jan 26, 2:07 pm
Biden makes 1st call as president to Russia's President Vladimir Putin


White House press secretary Jen Psaki revealed Biden called Russia's President Vladimir Putin while she was briefing reporters on Tuesday afternoon.

"The call has happened, I believe, since I have come out here," Psaki said, asked in the last question of the briefing for an update on the two leaders.

She said Biden called Putin "with the intention of discussing our willingness to extend New Start for five years and also to reaffirm our strong support for Ukraine sovereignty in the face of Russia's ongoing aggression. And also to raise matters of concern, including the SolarWinds hack, reports of Russia placing bounties on United States soldiers in Afghanistan, interference in the 2020 election, the poisoning of Alexey Navalny, and treatment of peaceful protesters by Russian security forces."

"His intention was also to make clear that the United States will act firmly in defense of our national interests in response to malign actions by Russia," Psaki added.

Psaki said the White House will deviler a readout of the call sometime early this afternoon.

Jan 26, 1:51 pm
Susan Rice confirms phasing out private prisons won't include immigration facilities


White House domestic policy adviser Susan Rice appeared at Tuesday afternoon's White House briefing to preview the racial equity-focused executive actions the president plans to sign in the afternoon.

"Advancing equity is a critical part of healing and of restoring unity in our nation," Rice said during lengthy opening remarks.

Rice confirmed to ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Cecilia Vega that Tuesday's order to phase out use of private prisons will apply only to DOJ-run private prisons and not those run by other agencies, including detention facilities run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). She did not answer Vega's question asking why the administration isn’t also addressing ICE detention centers, instead pivoting to talking points on why the administration wanted to end reliance on the DOJ-run facilities.

Tuesday's executive order, Rice said, is “silent on what may or may not transpire with ICE facilities. There was a Department of Justice Inspector General report in 2016 that underscored that private prisons funded by DOJ were less safe, less secure and arguably less humane," she said. "The Obama-Biden administration took steps to end renewing of contracts for private prisons. The Trump administration reversed that, and we’re reestablishing it."

While the administration is highlighting the racial equity theme of Tuesday's various executive orders, Vega pushed Rice on what the administration is doing to combat what has become the most visible and perhaps one of the most concerning forms of racism: white nationalists, particularly those willing to engage in violence and extremism as seen at the Capitol 20 days ago.

“What are you doing to address this issue of white nationalism and how concerned are you about the threat from some of these groups leading into this impeachment trial in two weeks?” Vega asked.

Rice replied the problem posed by white nationalists has “been plain for all Americans on their television sets" and said “that is why the president has ordered the intelligence community to compile a comprehensive assessment of the nature of this threat and challenge, and its origins and roots.”

Jan 26, 1:29 pm
GOP senator calls for vote on constitutionality of impeachment


Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul will force a vote in the Senate on the question of whether holding an impeachment trial for former President Donald Trump after he has left office is constitutional, he announced on the Senate floor Tuesday.

The afternoon vote forces Republicans to go on the record regarding how they might vote in Trump's trial.

Paul called the impeachment effort a "travesty," a "kangaroo court" and a "partisan exercise designed to further divide the country" during a floor speech announcing his intention to call the point of order -- in which a senator can argue that the chamber is not operating according to its rules.

"Hyper-partisan Democrats are about to drag our great country down into the gutter of rancor and vitriol the likes of which has never been seen in our nation's history," Paul said.

He took issue with Democrats impeaching Trump, in large part, over his speech prior to the riot on Jan. 6. He cited examples of Democrats using similar language in floor speeches supporting bail funds for Minnesota protestors during George Floyd demonstrations over the summer.

"A shame this is -- a travesty -- a dark blot in the history of our country," Paul said, urging colleagues to "move forward to debate the great issues of our day."

Wisconsin Republican Ron Johnson also rose to support Paul's effort -- and by default, the former president.

He said he wanted his collegaues to consider "not the constitutionality or unconstitutionality of that -- I want them to consider is it wise."

"Will the trial of a former president, of a private citizen, will it heal? Will it unify? I think the answer is clearly it will not," Johnson said.

Jan 26, 12:41 pm
Senate confirms Antony Blinken to head State Dept.


The Senate has voted to confirm Antony Blinken as secretary of state by a 78-22 vote.

Blinken has advised Biden on foreign policy for almost two decades. Previously, he served as deputy secretary of state in the Obama-Biden administration. When serving in his capacity as national security adviser to Biden, he was present in the Situation Room during the Osama bin Laden raid, as captured by a famous photograph. Blinken was also a top staffer on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when then-senator Biden was its chair.

As the country's top diplomat, Blinken is expected to play a pivotal role in the Biden administration's efforts to rebuild alliances and reenter international agreements like the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris Climate Agreement.

He is Biden's fourth Cabinet confirmation following Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines.

Jan 26, 12:15 pm
First woman VP swears-in first woman to head Treasury Dept.

Vice President Kamala Harris -- the nation's first woman vice president -- has ceremonially sworn-in Janet Yellen -- the first woman to lead the Treasury Department in its more than 230-year history.

 

Janet Yellen is sworn-in as the nation’s 78th Treasury secretary by Vice Pres. Harris. Yellen is the first woman to hold the job. https://t.co/lUV4RYPGMO pic.twitter.com/ItfFqHI0i7

— ABC News (@ABC) January 26, 2021

 

Yellen was sworn in outside the East side of the White House facing the Department of Treasury. She is now the first person have the distinction of serving as treasury secretary, chair of the Council of Economic Advisers and chair of the Federal Reserve.

She was confirmed by the Senate in a vote of 84 to 15 on Monday evening.

Jan 26, 12:08 pm
Senator's objection may offer glimpse of where GOP senators stand on impeachment

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., on Tuesday will make a point of order to dismiss former President Donald Trump's impeachment trial in the Senate, forcing Republicans to go on the record, indicating how they might vote in a trial.

Asked by Capitol Hill reporters Monday if he would force a vote on the trial's constitutionality, Paul said, "Yes."

Then asked if he has an idea of how many of his Republican colleagues are going to support him, Paul said, "I think it'll be enough to show that you know more than a third of the Senate thinks that the whole proceeding is unconstitutional -- which will show that ultimately they don't have the votes to do an impeachment."

Jan 26, 11:48 am
Schumer celebrates path forward on power-sharing, McConnell warns of dangers of overturning filibuster

Both Senate leaders focused their floor remarks Tuesday on the Senate power-sharing agreement -- which was agreed to Monday night when Minority Leader McConnell, feeling assured that Democrats do not have the votes to overturn the filibuster rule, agreed to move forward without language explicitly guaranteeing that the rule will stay in place.

According to Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, McConnell "relented."

"I'm glad we're finally able to get the Senate up and running -- my only regret is that it took so long," Schumer said.

COVID-19 relief will now come into focus as a key priority for Democrats -- with former President Donald Trump's impeachment trial looming.

Schumer left open the possibility of using other options to act on COVID-19 priorities if Republicans will not cooperate, saying the Senate will move "without them if we must."

The whole of McConnell's speech was focused on power-sharing and the importance of the legislative filibuster -- which Republicans could use to obstruct Biden's agenda and Democrats could vote to end.

McConnell is banking on Democratic Sens. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virgina's assurances that they will not change their minds on keeping the filibuster rule intact.

"If the Democratic majority were to attack the filibuster they would guarantee themselves immediate chaos," McConnell said.

The stalemate reflected the logistical challenges of a 50-50 Senate in which Democrats carry power since Vice President Kamala Harris, as president of the Senate, has the power to cast tie-breaking votes.

Jan 26, 11:22 am
Senators to be sworn in for Trump impeachment trial

In the Senate chamber at about 2:15 p.m., a rarely used motion that calls all senators to their seats in the chamber --  "a live quorum call" -- is set to take place to ensure they all can stand together at once, raise their hand and take their oath as jurors in former President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial.

Around 2:30 p.m., Former President Pro Tempore Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, will swear in his successor, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who will preside over the first-ever impeachment trial of a former president.

Leahy -- instead of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts -- will then swear in all senators.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow in an interview Monday night that Roberts wouldn't be presiding over the trial because Trump is no longer the sitting president and confirmed that Leahy, although the presiding officer, will also be able to vote.

"The Constitution says the chief justice presides for a sitting president. So that is not going to be -- so it was up to John Roberts whether he wanted to preside with a president who’s no longer sitting -- Trump -- and he doesn’t want to do it," Schumer said. "So traditionally what has happened is then the next in line is the Senate Pro Tempore -- that’s the most senior senator on the majority side, and that’s Sen. Leahy, who’s a very experienced man and a very fair man."

A spokeswoman for Roberts Monday morning said the chief still officially has no comment.

Jan 26, 10:46 am
Biden's top economic adviser soliciting 'input' on COVID-19 relief deal


National Economic Council Director Brian Deese told ABC News Senior White House Correspondent Mary Bruce in the White House driveway Monday morning that lawmakers wanting a lower-priced COVID-19 proposal from Biden haven't said what that looks like but suggested there may be wiggle room on the amount of the direct payments to Americans.

In an appearance moments before on CNBC, Deese said a few times that the Biden administration is "looking for people's input," referring to negotiations with lawmakers over the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief deal.

After a phone call Sunday with 16 bipartisan senators and some representatives from the House Problem Solvers' Caucus, another senior administration official said, "the feedback was constructive across the board" -- but on Tuesday, Deese seemed to be soliciting counter-proposals from Republicans to make the package more palatable to them.

"We welcome the focus on targeting, including from Republican members and those provisions should have broad bipartisan support," Deese said. "Certainly if there are ways to make that provision and other provisions more effective, that's something we're open to, that we'll have conversations about."

While Deese emphasized that the Biden administration is looking for ideas on how to tweak the package, he continued to emphasize the urgency to act soon. Biden said Monday he expects the negotiations could continue another "couple of weeks."

The White House on Monday morning updated Biden’s schedule to include 4:45 p.m. remarks “on the fight to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Jan 26, 10:30 am
Republican senator to challenge Trump impeachment trial proceedings

Republicans are increasingly supportive of the belief that this trial is unconstitutional, and at least one will challenge the proceedings Tuesday.

Just before the Senate breaks for lunch around noon, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., will have about 15 minutes to make his argument as to why he thinks the impeachment trial is unconstitutional. He could raise a constitutional point of order -- which should spark a vote -- forcing senators to go on the record which could signal for the first time where most Republicans stand on convicting Trump.

On Tuesday afternoon, constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley -- who was called as a witness by Republicans in Trump's first impeachment trial and argued against his impeachment then -- has been invited to speak at the weekly closed-door GOP lunch. While it isn't clear if Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was involved in inviting Turley, he likely wouldn't be at the Capitol Hill lunch if McConnell disapproved.

Turley recently wrote that "retroactive impeachment" -- or impeachment or a former president -- is not constitutional. However, the professor himself noted that he has changed his views over time and previously thought it was constitutional.

The absence of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts is another a key factor in many Republicans' case against the legitimacy of the proceedings as Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., is set to preside over the swearing-in of senators as jurors Tuesday afternoon.

Jan 26, 9:25 am
Senate considers Biden's Cabinet as Trump's impeachment trial looms

House impeachment managers on Monday delivered an article of impeachment against former President Donald Trump to the Senate, queuing up an unprecedented second trial and the first ever for a former president in the chamber.

The managers silently walked the article across the Capitol in the evening -- from the House to the Senate -- where senators, only three Republicans, awaited their arrival before lead impeachment manager Jamie Raskin, D-Md., read it aloud.

The Senate will reconvene on Tuesday for senators to be sworn in as jurors and the "issuance of summons" to Trump, although his trial is not expected to start until Feb. 9 -- an agreement made by Senate leaders to give Trump's defense team time to prepare and the Senate the opportunity to confirm more of Biden's Cabinet picks.

In order to convict Trump by a two-thirds majority, at least 17 Republican senators would need to join all 50 Democratic senators -- a long-shot since several Republicans have aired grievances with the impeachment process but not with the actions of the former president. Rand Paul, R-Ky., is already expected to object to the proceedings.

Dividing its time, the Senate voted on Monday to confirm of Biden's Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen -- placing the first woman to lead the department. Yellen is Biden's third Cabinet pick to be confirmed -- as the administration continues to lag behind others in confirmations -- and will receive a ceremonial swearing-in at the White House from the nation's first female vice president Tuesday.

The Senate is expected to vote on Anthony Blinken to lead the State Department Tuesday and Alejandro Nicholas Mayorkas to lead the Homeland Security Department, as well as consider the nomination of Rhode Island Gov. Gina Marie Raimondo as Biden's commerce secretary.

Biden makes afternoon remarks outlining his racial equity agenda and signs more executive actions in the afternoon. He has already taken 33 executive actions -- executive orders, proclamations and more -- and 23 of them have aimed to reverse, roll back or just generally undo the Trump agenda, in areas ranging from climate change and COVID-19 to allowing transgender people to openly service in the military.

Domestic Policy Adviser Susan Rice will appear with White House press secretary Jen Psaki at her daily press briefing at 12:30 p.m.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



EMPPhotography/iStockBy ALISA WIERSEMA, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- In the span of just few months, Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio went from openly discussing his plans to help Republicans defend the 2022 Senate map, to announcing he would not seek reelection and instead plans to retire at the end of his term.

While the news shocked his Republican colleagues on Capitol Hill, the announcement also signaled the starting point of another competitive campaign cycle.

Portman is the third Republican senator from a key swing state to announce his retirement -- Sens. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Richard Burr of North Carolina also do not plan to seek reelection in November 2022, making Republicans vulnerable to widening their minority margin in the Senate. GOP concerns over defending competitive seats are further exacerbated by a lack of public commitments from Sens. Chuck Grassley and Ron Johnson to run for reelection in Iowa and Wisconsin.

"Normally the first midterm election after the presidential is good for the opposite party," Portman said in a November interview with Politico. "Donald Trump just won Ohio by eight points twice. I beat (Trump) by 13 points last time (in 2016). Should be a good year for Republicans."

Although Portman's optimism about running for a third term seems to have soured -- he cited the "increasingly polarized" nature of politics as his decision not to run on Monday -- his earlier assessment of 2022 indicates a favorable playing field for Republicans. In the hours following Portman's announcement, some of Ohio's prominent GOP leaders began fielding questions about their professional intentions.

Speculation immediately swirled around the prospects of former President Donald Trump's longtime congressional ally, Rep. Jim Jordan. He rose to national prominence as a key voice in the House Freedom Caucus and was recently awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Trump. One of the accomplishments listed by the White House at the time of the award ceremony was Jordan having "led the effort to confront the impeachment witch hunt," a role the sitting congressman has indicated he's willing to reprise amid the second round of impeachment proceedings against the former president.

During an interview on the conservative media channel Newsmax following Portman's announcement, Jordan made his allegiance to Trump clear, although he demurred when asked if he would seek a 2022 Senate run.

"I mean we'll see, I'm focused on my work in the Judiciary Committee," he said, adding that he is also focused on "doing everything we can to get this thing over with and making sure the president is not convicted in the United States Senate."

Jordan's close ties to Trump would likely become a crucial part of his campaign platform if he decides to run.

Trump has already indicated he plans to wade into 2022 contests by backing his former White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, in the Arkansas gubernatorial race. The success of Trump's endorsements on a national scale would test the longevity of his influence within the party.

"I wouldn't be surprised to see that Trump would double down on his support for Jordan when it comes to the primaries, which of course are more than a year from now," said Dr. Paul Beck, professor emeritus of political science at Ohio State University.

Beck said that while he would be surprised if Jordan did not ultimately choose to run, Trump's likely endorsement may not be enough to solidify the current congressman as a definite front-runner.

"(Rep. Jordan) is somebody who would rally Democrats and independents against him -- and some Republicans against him. I think some of the John Kasich people would not at all support (Jordan)," Beck said, referring to Ohio's former governor, who enjoyed Republican support as a centrist before running for president in 2016.

Ohio voters could see another familiar face in the campaign scramble, as former Rep. Jim Renacci appears to be mulling over his political future. A day after Portman's announcement, Renacci issued a statement outlining his plans to explore his "options to reenter public office over the next 60 days."

The former congressman told ABC News that he held a virtual meeting with several state leaders Monday evening and plans to continue holding virtual town halls. Renacci said he aims to start some face-to-face discussions when that becomes possible.

Renacci's recent statement laid out his imminent plans to speak with voters across the state during a months-long "exploratory deep-dive phase." Although the former congressman is no stranger to competitive races, he hasn't been victorious statewide. In 2018, Renacci lost a Senate bid to the state's current senator, Democrat Sherrod Brown by nearly 7 points.

Brown's success in winning contests in Republican-leaning territory made him somewhat of a political unicorn that other Democratic Senate hopefuls could try to emulate in 2022. At the time of his victory against Renacci, Brown earned more votes and won by a greater margin than Republican Mike DeWine, who won the 2018 gubernatorial race by 3.7 points. Meanwhile, Trump's winning margin in the Buckeye State leveled at 8.1 points in both 2016 and 2020.

Rep. Tim Ryan, a top House Democrat and former 2020 presidential candidate, already indicated a willingness to make the leap. Although Ryan's presidential bid never took off amid the crowded field of candidates, he pitched himself as someone who could win back Americans who had pivoted away from Democrats in 2016 in favor of Trump.

"I'm overwhelmed by supporters who are reaching out to encourage me to run for Senate. I haven't made a decision yet but I'm looking seriously at it. Ohio deserves leaders who fight for working people," Ryan tweeted on Monday, hours after Portman's press conference.

According to Dr. Paul Beck, Ryan would be "a natural candidate for the Democrats" if he won the party's nomination. In addition to already having a built-in public profile, Beck predicted the upcoming redistricting process would make a Senate bid more appealing for the congressman who is now serving his 10th term in office.

"We will have redistricted House districts in 2022. My guess is that Ryan will run in a district -- if he seeks reelection -- that is less favorable to him. The district he currently occupies has been sort of trending away from the Democrats," Beck said.

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley also indicated interest in running for Portman's seat. In a Monday tweet, Whaley thanked supporters for "all the encouraging words" and warned of a competitive election cycle in 2022.

"While I'm still deciding what I will do next, I hope you'll support us as we do everything we can do to support Democrats in 2022," she said.

Although Biden flipped Dayton's Montgomery County in November, Buckeye Democrats have generally had a rough track record over the course of the last decade. The state is currently led by a Republican governor and the GOP controls both chambers of the state house. In Washington, the Ohio delegation includes three times as many Republicans as Democrats. As implied by Whaley, the competing opening for Democrats to run a candidate against incumbent Gov. Mike DeWine would further raise the stakes in 2022.

"What the Democrats don't have is a lot of bench strength -- they don't have anybody with a clear, statewide visibility that would have probably a major edge in the primaries, and so that's what is going to be as exciting as the Republican side will be," Beck predicted.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



BlakeDavidTaylor/iStockBy ALEXANDER MALLIN and LUKE BARR, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Acting Washington, D.C., U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin said Tuesday that they have identified 400 suspects and have arrested 135 to date in connection with the attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Sherwin also said that list of suspects is "growing by the hour," but cautioned they might not have probable cause at this moment to charge all 400.

"All of our law enforcement partners are doing everything we can to ensure that list increases geometrically, which it does every single day," he added.

FBI Assistant Director in Charge of the Washington Field Office Steven D'Antuono lauded Americans who came forward and helped turn in some of the people they were looking for, saying that they've received over 200,000 digital media tips.

"Some of you have recognized that this was such an egregious incident that you've turned in your own friends and family members. We know that those decisions are often painful, but you pick up the phone because it was the right thing to do," he said. "We are grateful you made that choice. America is grateful you made that choice."

Although D'Antuono did not mention him by name, Jackson Reffitt told ABC News on Tuesday that he is now in hiding and has cut ties with his family after he said he tipped off the FBI that his father was a part of the riots.

The DOJ is still trying to "build towards" charges of seditious conspiracy and pointed to the Thomas Caldwell OathKeeper case because "it shows a militia group's actively involved in planning and breaching the Capitol," according to Sherwin.

He said the public could see possible sedition charges "bear fruit very soon" and that there could be an uptick in assaults against police officer cases. At a previous press conference, Sherwin said the DOJ established a task force to investigate possible sedition charges.

"At present we don't have the whole universe" of individuals who may have illegally entered the Capitol," D'Antuono said Tuesday. "We don't have hard and fast figures on that."

D'Antuono also said that they are still looking for suspects related to the pipe bomb placed outside the Democratic National Committee and Republican National Committee buildings the day of the riot. There is a $75,000 reward for information pertaining to a suspect.

"The components of the bomb made it a viable device," he explained.

He said that the Justice Department looks for the most easily provable case to charge some of the individuals with and then they can add felony charges once if they have enough evidence to charge them.

Sherwin said there is 150 federal cases and 50 D.C. Superior Court cases, totaling almost 200 cases they have ether announced or are under seal.

It doesn't matter who is in the White House, the Department of Justice will still bring charges against those who entered the Capitol illegally, Sherwin added.

"The Criminal Code is the same it is on the 26th of January that it was on Jan. 6," Sherwin said. "If the evidence is there, if we could identify someone, they're going to be charged regardless of who is in the White House."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



Burak Sur/iStockBy SOPHIE TATUM, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden has made it clear one of his first priorities in office is getting students back into the classroom, but after an almost year-long debate over the safety of schools during the pandemic, the new administration could face an uphill battle as the trajectory of the virus in the United States remains uncertain.

During Biden’s first week in office, his administration announced its strategy to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, which included several initiatives aimed at reopening schools and an appearance by the first lady, Jill Biden, who addressed the nation’s educators alongside the presidents of two teachers unions, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association.

The president said on Monday that he believes “we should make school classrooms safe and secure,” adding that schools need new ventilation systems and testing for students and teachers.

“We need the capacity, the capacity to know that, in fact, the circumstance in the school is safe and secure for everyone,” he said.

And on Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report that indicated when schools implement strategies like mask requirements and student cohorts, there is potential for them to open safely when those certain mitigation steps are in place.

The strategy put forth by the Biden administration last week relies on things like calling on Congress to provide at least $130 billion in funding specifically for schools, supporting expanded testing and screening efforts in schools and issuing updated safety guidelines for schools.

His plan comes as some educators have begun to receive the vaccine in the latest push to restore normalcy. However, there’s still hesitancy in many parts of the country over returning to a physical classroom full-time, following the previous administration’s push to reopen with little federal guidance on how to do so.

“Part of the challenge he's [Biden] facing now is he realizes that, you know, without leadership from federal governments, the different states are doing different things,” the NEA president, Becky Pringle, told ABC News.

The Chicago Teachers Union announced on Sunday it had voted to continue teaching remote. The CTU has asked Chicago Public Schools to “establish clear public health criteria” and “enforce safety protocols in schools,” among other things, before returning to in-person learning, according to the union’s list of demands.

Virginia Education Association President James Fedderman released a statement on Jan. 8 calling on the state to implement an all-virtual learning curriculum until all school staff are vaccinated.

The Omaha Education Association in Nebraska is pushing back against a full return to in-person learning until all teachers are vaccinated.

“In our view, it is absolutely imperative that OPS educators and staff are vaccinated before we return to greeting, teaching and caring for all of our students each and every day. Without vaccinated educators and staff, every school day at every OPS school building becomes a potential virus super-spreader event,” OEA President Robert Miller said in a Jan. 13 statement.

“It always goes back to” following the science and involving everyone from educators and administrators to parents and health experts when deciding on the safety of returning to school, Pringle said.

“All of them need to be involved in decision making around when it is safe to go back to school, and then how … are we going to build a plan so that we're thinking about equity in terms of access to opportunity to the vaccine itself, all of those things, and so his plan takes that into consideration, but you’re hearing a lot of angst,” Pringle said, adding that has occurred because “there wasn't any leadership.”

As schools across the nation are at varying stages of reopening, returning to school safely doesn’t necessarily mean that every single teacher needs to be vaccinated before a school reopens, Randi Weingarten, the president of AFT, told ABC News.

“The issue is that we should be aligning vaccination with school opening. That doesn't mean every single teacher has to be vaccinated before you open one school, it means there has to be that alignment,” Weingarten said.

When asked if teachers should return to in-person learning, Biden on Monday said that he hopes to ensure schools have safety precautions in place, like plastic dividers, and the capacity to test for the virus.

“The teachers I know, they want to work,” Biden said. “They just want to work in a safe environment, and as safe as we can rationally make it. And we can do that. And we should be able to open up every school, kindergarten through eighth grade, if, in fact, we administer these tests.”

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



Doug Mills/Pool/Getty ImagesBy ANNE FLAHERTY, STEPHANIE EBBS, and BEN GITTLESON, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden announced Tuesday that his administration is working with coronavirus vaccine makers to buy another 200 million doses that would arrive this summer -- raising the total to 600 million and ensuring the U.S. will eventually have two shots of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for nearly every American.

Biden also said the federal government will be increasing the number of doses shipped to states -- from 8.6 million doses a week to 10 million a week for the next three weeks, and will start notifying states how many doses they will receive three weeks in advance.

"We will both increase the supply in the short term by more than 15%, and give our states and local partners more certainty about when the deliveries will arrive. These two steps are going to help increase our prospects of hitting or exceeding -- God willing -- the ambitious goal of 100 million shots in 100 days," Biden said in remarks at the White House on Tuesday.

The announcement does not resolve the major shortages that the nation is experiencing now and does not suggest the Biden administration has found a novel way to ramp up production quickly.

But Biden said that "God willing" it will allow millions more people to be vaccinated earlier than anticipated, cautioning that the "brutal truth" is it will still take months to get through the majority of the population.

"This is going to allow millions of more Americans to get vaccinated sooner than previously anticipated. We've got a long way to go, though," he said.

The slight uptick to 10 million in the next three weeks had been expected, as vaccine makers slowly expand supply, and the U.S. government already had the option to buy more doses under existing contracts.

Under President Donald Trump, the U.S. government had already agreed to buy 200 million doses from Pfizer and 200 million from Moderna, which were delivered by July.

Because each vaccine requires two shots, those 400 million doses already purchased from Pfizer and Moderna would be enough to vaccinate about 200 million U.S. adults. But tens of millions more people will need to be immunized to reach "herd immunity."

Biden emphasized that the U.S. now expects 600 million doses of the two vaccines, enough for 300 million Americans to be fully vaccinated with both doses.

The FDA has not signed off on giving either of the available COVID-19 vaccines to children until the companies complete more research. The Pfizer vaccine is authorized in people as young as 16, whereas the Moderna vaccine is authorized for people over 18 years old.

A senior administration official did not provide a firm timetable on the 200 million extra doses, but hailed the move as a guarantee that every American who wants a shot can get one.

The official said using the Defense Production Act to boost supply remains an option. Examples include more specialized syringes and raw materials, although vaccine makers said there is little that can be done in the near term to boost supply rapidly because it is so highly technical.

"We will do everything in our power to increase the supply and speed the administration of the vaccine," the official said.

And in a moment that showed a significant contrast to his predecessor Biden also said that masks are the best way to defend against the virus in the coming months, saying not wearing a mask is "not very American."

"In the next few months, masks -- not vaccines -- are the best defense against COVID-19. Experts say that wearing masks from now just until April would save 50,000 lives who otherwise will pass away if we don't wear these masks. That's why I'm asking the American people to mask up for the first 100 days," he said.

He added "the fact is, you want to be patriotic, you're going to protect people."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



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